Teaching Zeitgeist

German has two verbs that sound exactly the same when you use them in different ways. Today I had to explain that difference to my class.

Let us suppose we want to say “Helmut eats a cake.” That would be “Helmut isst einen Kuchen.” When used in the first-person singular form the verb “to eat” – isst – sounds exactly like the first-person singular verb “is” – ist. That one little “s” can make all the difference in the world. Therefore…

Helmut isst einen Kuchen. – Helmut eats a cake.
Helmut ist ein Kuchen. – Helmut is a cake.

Then I realized that there is little else separating cakes from humans. Both cakes and humans…

  • …are carbon based.
  • …require eggs, sugar, and oxygen.
  • …come in chocolate, vanilla, and a wide variety of flavors.
  • …celebrate birthdays and other holidays.

May the Almighty help us if the cakes learn to speak German.

[Edit] : A reader caught my nominative case error. Thanks!

One thought on “Teaching Zeitgeist

  1. If you were to say “Helmut is a cake”, then it would be “Helmut ist ein Kuche.”, not “Helmut ist einen Kuche”, therefore taking away any question of whether you mean “eat” or “is”.

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